I know Sandi from Quail Spring Church of Christ in Oklahoma, City. Even though she is quieter than her husband, Larry, I know that when she does speak up in class, I should listen. I heard about Sandi’s God story in the post of a friend on Facebook, who had been in class the day Sandi shared it. Since I hadn’t been there to hear it, I asked her to share it here for our monthly God Story post.
I’m so glad I did. It was just what I needed to hear during this season of life, and I pray it blesses you, too!
My name is Sandi Schwab. I’m married to Larry, and we celebrated 32 years of marriage this past May. I am the mother of two grown children, and Nonna to Ian, my 2 year old grandson. I live in Oklahoma City, where I came to know Tara. I’m honored that she asked me to share a bit of my story with you. Tara is a wonderful writer, and I’m humbled to join your online community this week!
We all have a story, each with its own unique components, that we can share with others to help them along on their journey, and I love the way women especially want to help each other through tough times by sharing their own struggles and doubts.
The part of my story I want to share with you today involves a word that we often dread or at the very least, causes a lot of stress. That is CHANGE.
Like all of us, I’ve experienced a fair amount of change in my life, and as a young woman, I settled on a tenuous truce with God concerning change and trusting Him.
You see, my childhood would be considered by many to be chaotic at best, maybe even dysfunctional. When I was small, I overheard a family member saying that my dad must be “part gypsy.” That was an accurate description of the life my mom and two brothers lived, at the mercy of a husband and father who was never quite satisfied with any job he had and always believed that the perfect job, along with wealth, was just down the road. Consequently, by the time I graduated from high school, I had gone to 13 different schools and moved close to 20 times. That much chaos is not healthy, and I suffered because of it. I have no memories of large portions of my life. Change was a constant companion, and I learned to make friends fast, but not to hold them too close, because I would not keep them for long. (My parents kept true to this pattern for life, and by the time they passed away, 10 months apart, they had moved a staggering 53 times, at least that my brothers and I could count.)
When I met Larry while on staff at a Christian youth camp, I was not only drawn to his good looks, warm eyes and kind heart, but also his steadfastness. He had lived in one house his entire life! I found that very intriguing, and I was drawn to him like a small child to a Christmas tree!
We soon married and I believed that I had found not only my true love, but finally that stable, steady, secure life I had desired so badly. We settled in the town of Tyler, Texas. It was the town I was born in, and I still had some family there. We found a church we loved, wonderful friends, and I was happy. I finally could sink down deep roots.
Within two years our son Zane was born in 1982. Life was so good! By 1985, I was pregnant again, and we welcomed a beautiful baby girl to our family, Allison Layne. I had finally crafted the life I wanted. Life was right on track, so I thought. I didn’t have a clue that we were about to experience one of the cruelest things life can throw at you.
When Allison was about a month old, Larry and I began to notice some problems. It was hard to put our finger on it, but Allison wasn’t developing on schedule and then she developed other problems, with her breathing and her heart. Our pediatrician sent us quickly to Dallas to see specialists. After an agonizing wait of weeks and extensive tests, our sweet, precious, beautiful child was given a terminal diagnosis. Allison had a rare genetic disease that caused severe brain damage and constant respiratory problems. It was agonizing. She was so terribly sick, and we spent weeks at Children’s Hospital in Dallas, leaving Zane in the care of friends in Tyler. I was so angry at God. There was really no one to even talk to. Few people had home computers at this time, and we didn’t yet have the luxury of the internet. We couldn’t even find one other family in the US that was experiencing a child with this illness. We felt so alone.
November 6, 1985, our sweet baby went home to be with Jesus. She was 5 ½ months old.
After a while, all our family went back home, Larry went back to work, and I was left at home, never wanting to get out of bed again. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was there. He was there in the eyes of a blond, blue eyed little boy who stood by my bed each morning. I had to get up and take care of Zane. God was prodding me to keep going. I never felt weaker. Whether I knew it or not, God was meeting me in my weakness.
After some time had passed, we began to talk about more children. Having our own was out of the question because Allison’s disease was genetic. It could happen again. Not wanting to take that risk, we made the decision to adopt. We were blessed with the arrival of Kimberly Brett into our family in August of 1987. I had buried painful emotions during our loss of Allison, and I once again began to think that surely, life would be “stable” from this point forward. Silly me.
In the late 80’s, the architecture firm that Larry worked for began failing, along with the economy. His job soon evaporated, just as we were set to buy a house and sink down those roots! We had spent all of our savings on medical bills and Kim’s adoption. No job, no money. We understandably felt panicked. Larry began a desperate search and quickly found a job, but it was in Oklahoma, not in Tyler, the place I was sure God had intended for us to remain forever! I was devastated. The stable life that I was so desperately trying to construct was slipping through my fingers once again.
We left behind friends, and a home that I wanted so badly, but we were also leaving behind Allison. Or so it felt. She was buried in Tyler, and we frequented her grave. It was going to be so hard to not be able to do that. I cried all the way to Oklahoma, following Larry who was driving the moving van. At least the feeling was familiar to me. I knew how to move, that was for sure.
I soon sank into a deep depression after our move. I became irrationally convinced that if we would only move back to Tyler, everything would be okay. You would think I would know better. It was going to take God working in a very different way to get His message across. I was feeling such a deep sadness at leaving the place Allison was buried. I felt that we had abandoned her. I would wake in a panic from nightmares where I was looking for her. It was about the lowest I had ever felt. The weekend of Easter 1990, God would work in a powerful way on my heart. He gave me a dream.
It was the Saturday night before Easter. I dreamed that my mother and I were running in the cemetery where Allison is buried. She is buried at the top of a small hill, and mom and I were running as fast as we could up the hill. I was feeling the most intense joy I’ve ever felt. As Mom and I got to the top, I saw the small white casket that Allison is buried in, sitting on top of the ground, looking pristine and white. It was sparkling! The top was off the casket, and as I looked down into it, I saw my baby, whole and beautiful, healthy and smiling at me! As I bent over to pick her up, there was suddenly a rocking chair behind me. I sat down with Allison and began to rock and sing to her. I felt, rather than saw, someone standing behind me. I knew it was a man. He placed a warm hand upon my shoulder. His presence was so powerful! I wanted to turn around and see his face, but he wouldn’t let me. I was finally content to just sit and rock Allison. My mom stood by me, tears streaming down her face, the picture of complete joy. I didn’t want to wake from this moment, but when I did, I was awake for the rest of the night.
As I replayed the dream over and over, wanting so much to be there again, I finally understood what God was telling me. He was telling me that it was all okay. He was with me, and he was with Allison too. She was whole, and someday I would get to be with her again and do all those things that we had missed out on.
God was also telling me that He was with me daily, not just in dreams. His hand was ALWAYS on my shoulder. The peace and contentment that was so elusive to me were always there for the taking. It was found in God, not in my circumstance. Life can change in a hurry. Our security can be shattered easily, so take care with where you place your security.
God has been pointing me to Himself all throughout my life. His security is never shattered. It is as constant and firm as His word. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
I’ve never had a dream like that one again. It was a gift from God, I know. It’s been 22 years since I had that dream, but I still think of it often. It still serves to remind me of God’s unchanging nature, in the midst of my still ever-changing life!
He is my anchor.
*This God Story was originally published on my other website OverACup.org Dec. 5, 2012.